For as long as there has been writers and deadlines, the “idea notebook” has been a fixture of almost every writer at some point.
However, much as with everything else to do with writing, the idea notebook/scratchpad is moving online. A slew of services have come up to make it easy to quickly jot down and organize your thoughts, including bookmarking services such as Diigo and Del.icio.us, as well as more-targeted note-taking services such as Google Notebook.
However, with the announcement that Google was stopping development of its Notebook product, many began scrambling to find alternative to the service, including some fairly hack-like solutions, such as the ones Google recommended.
Fortunately, Evernote has been around for some time and appears to be a safe bet for anyone who needs help remembering the information they need. Best of all, for bloggers, who often get their ideas in a wide variety for formats, locations and sources, it may be the best tool available.
How it Works
For those unfamiliar with Evernote, the idea is pretty straightforward. You take the things that you need to remember, whether it is a street address, a link or even a task you have to do, and put them in the “Notebook” of your choosing. You can then view those notes later using either Evernote’s Web interface or one of their applications.
What makes Evernote so interesting is the sheer number of data types the system can accept and the ways that you can access the information. Evernote has versions of its software for Windows, Mac, iPhone, Windows Mobile and even U3 (for use on a flash drive). You also have the option of installing a bookmarklet in your browser (to aid in clipping Web pages) and you can also access your information and take notes via the Web.
Best of all, you don’t need to hammer out a text note every time you need to remember something. You can also take pictures of what you want to upload, such as a business card, and upload it that way. Evernote will search the image for any text that it can read and make it searchable for those words automatically.
The idea is that, any time you see something you know you’ll want to come back to later, there is an easy way to take that information and get it into Evernote, once it is there, you should have access to it anywhere you go, either via mobile phone, desktop application or the Web.
Evernote for Bloggers
So how can Evernote help bloggers? The answer is pretty simple. If you write for multiple sites or try to keep a regular schedule on even just one, it can often be hard to come up with ideas on demand. As such, its important to remember the ideas you get when they come in.
Evernote can do that very easily, without even making full use of the service, all one has to do is the following:
- Create a notebook for each site that you write for (personal blog, business blog, etc.)
- Install the bookmarklet for all of your browsers to capture interesting Web content. The bookmarklet automatically preserves the source URL, making it much more useful for Web content.
- As you find content you want to link to or report on, select the relevant text and/or images and clip them the applicable notebook.
- Use tags to indicate which topics within your site the article is for and, if you have a stories that require multiple clips, create a tag for each one.
- Once you write an article, delete the clips from Evernote to keep it clean. You can also drag and drop notes between different books if you decide the idea would work better on another site.
Though this works best with blogs that get most of their ideas from the Web, since you can upload almost any media type to the site, it can work well with camera phone snaps on the street, doodles on a whiteboard or almost anywhere else you come up with an idea on the fly. However, obviously, you will have to use the media capture device right for that input.
Also, this isn’t to say that Evernote should only be used to keep ideas for your blogs, but that it is capable of replacing your scratchpad at the same time it helps you keep other aspects of your life in order. For most, their “idea” notebooks will likely just be a small part of their Evernote collection.
Finally, it is also worth noting that, while Evernote is capable of bookmarking links, it isn’t meant to be a replacement for a true bookmarking service. Those who need to keep track of a lot of links, rather than just a few story ideas, would probably be better served by another site.
When I first set up my Evernote account, about six months ago, I was skeptical about how useful the service would be for me. For most of the time I’ve owned it, it has gone pretty much completely inactive.
However, I realized that my system of keeping ideas notes, namely using a small legal pad near my keyboard, was causing me too much grief. Not only was my handwriting almost illegible, but if I had to work from home or otherwise didn’t have it with me, I had only what information was left in my head.
Ever since I shifted to Evernote for remembering potential blog post ideas, I’ve found myself with more topics to pull from, better access to my notes and more time to create the content that I need. I spend less time re-researching my stories and more time pulling them together.
I think it is safe to say that Evernote has improved my blogging and is a tool that I’m rapidly finding new uses for. Though I usually don’t openly recommend tools or services, Evernote is one that has proved useful to me in so many ways, I almost wonder how I got along with out it.